Canadian employers hoping to bring in temporary foreign workers should expect long delays in getting federal approvals due to an increased volume of applications, warns Employment and Social Development Canada.
In the first six months of this year, employers applied to bring in 61,088 migrant workers, which was equal to 70 per cent of last year’s total. Demand usually peaks in the last quarter of the year, between October and December. The number of applications last year was 97,053, up almost 11 per cent from 87,765 in 2016.
Anyone who wants to hire temporary foreign workers must obtain a positive labour market impact assessment from Ottawa to show a regional labour shortage and to prove the workers are not taking away jobs from qualified Canadians.
“The temporary foreign worker program is currently experiencing an unanticipated increase in the volume of labour market impact assessment applications,” said Josh Bueckert, a spokesperson for Employment and Social Development Canada.
“The department is making every effort to provide the best possible service to employers and is processing the assessment applications as efficiently and accurately as possible to minimize the impact on employers.”
It is not known what led to the surge, but Bueckert said the most significant increases in demand are coming from employers who are offering permanent jobs to migrant workers who are applying for immigration, and families looking for caregivers. The approval process can take as long as two months.
“There are a range of factors that can impact processing times, including those outside of the control of Service Canada, such as the completeness of the application and availability of employers to respond to missing information,” said Bueckert.
He said the government is implementing a number of initiatives to address the backlog, such as workload management, hiring, reallocating and training additional staff.
British Columbia has topped the demand for migrants workers with 20,907 applications submitted, followed by Ontario (17,583) and Quebec (7,754).
According to data from the ministry, the top requested foreign workers in 2018 have come from Mexico (27,500), Jamaica (9,400), Guatemala (7,700), Philippines (6,000), India (4,900), the United States (1,400) and South Korea (1,300).
Canada’s use of temporary foreign workers, most of whom are employed in agriculture, peaked at almost 200,000 in 2012 before the then-Conservative government introduced a series of measures — including raising the application fee from $275 to $1,000 — to crack down on abuses of the program,
The number of migrant workers approved since had dropped annually to just 87,765 in 2016 before the numbers went up again last year.
Nicholas Keung is a Toronto-based reporter covering immigration. Follow him on Twitter: @nkeung